Horseshoe enthusiast, volunteers bring new courts to Hillman

News Photos by James Andersen Don Mueller, top, pitches a horseshoe during an impromptu tournament on Monday at the new Hillman Horseshoe Club courts at Emerick Park in Hillman. Mueller and local volunteers recently completed the courts after a year and a half of work and the club began earlier this month. Next week, the club will host its first Michigan Horseshoe Pitchers Association tournament.

HILLMAN — For Don Mueller, horseshoes have been a lifelong interest.

He grew up playing horseshoes in his backyard and met his wife Vicki playing horseshoes downstate. He’s been a National Horseshoe Pitching Association member since 1995, pitches on a local league in Lewiston and has traveled the country, competing in different tournaments.

“I’ve been playing ever since I was a kid. Dad had pits in the backyard, so it was just an everyday occurrence; just every day or every weekend or whenever you get a chance,” Mueller said. “It’s for everybody. Young and old alike, men and women.”

Now, thanks to Mueller and local volunteers, Northeast Michigan horseshoe pitchers won’t have to travel far to play. Mueller, a Hillman resident, and local volunteers have erected brand-new horseshoe courts and started a new club in Emerick Park in Hillman.

The Hillman Horseshoe Club began on July 13 and meets every Monday at 6 p.m. The six new courts are NHPA- sanctioned–meaning they’re built to specific NHPA specifications–marked for several different throwing distances including 40 feet and 30 feet and open to the public at any time.

Mueller’s goal of having NHPA-sanctioned courts in Northeast Michigan has been a longtime dream that recently came to fruition after a year and a half of work. Though there are 11 different horseshoe clubs throughout Michigan, the closest NHPA-sanctioned courts are in Lapeer; a nearly three-hour drive from Hillman.

NHPA-sanctioned courts which used to be in Manton closed several years ago.

Though Hillman’s club is just a few weeks old, interest is growing. On Monday, nearly a dozen pitchers showed up; enough to have a tournament.

Many of the local throwers, like Mueller, compete in other leagues, but having courts closer to home is definitely welcomed. Passersby on Monday evenings will hear the unmistakable clang of horseshoes against stakes.

The Muellers said the response to the new club has been positive and a banner hangs on the outside of the courts, thanking the local sponsors and volunteers who contributed to the project.

“It’s great. It’s exciting. We’ve got people stopping all the time,” Mueller said. “If a horseshoe pitcher drives by, he knows what this is or he hears the sound.”

The Muellers are hoping for an even bigger turnout next weekend when the club hosts its first Michigan Horseshoe Pitchers Association tournament on Aug. 8.

For pitchers who follow the national circuit and want to qualify for high level tournaments, they have to have a certain number of games played on sanctioned courts.

“It’s our first sanctioned tournament and since everybody has been cancelling out all over the state, we’re hoping the tournament–if I can get 10 sanctioned pitchers up there–I’ll be excited,” Vicki Mueller said.


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